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Ohio legislation affecting ag industry on the move

Peter Cade/Getty Images young woman farmer feeding cows
ASSISTANCE: One bipartisan bill in the Ohio legislature aims to assist beginning farmers through several temporary income tax credits.
One bill aims to assist beginning farmers through several temporary income tax credits.

The Ohio General Assembly is off and running in its new session. Many bills that affect agriculture in Ohio are already on the move. Here’s a summary of those that are gaining the most momentum or attention:

Tax Conformity Bill — S.B. 18 and H.B. 48. The Senate has already passed its version of this bill, which conforms the state tax code with recent changes to the Internal Revenue Code made in the latest COVID-19 stimulus provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act.  Both the Senate and the House also will exempt forgiven Paycheck Protection Program second-draw loan proceeds from the Commercial Activity Tax. 

The Senate version additionally exempts Bureau of Workers Compensation dividend rebates from the Commercial Activity Tax beginning in 2020, but the House bill does not. Both bills include “emergency” language that would make the provisions effective in time for 2020 tax returns.

Beginning farmers tax credits — H.B. 95. A slightly different version of this bill is returning after not passing in the last legislative session. The bipartisan bill aims to assist beginning farmers through several temporary income tax credits.

Businesses that sell or rent agricultural assets such as land, animals, facilities or equipment to certified beginning farmers can receive a 5% income tax credit for sales, a 10% of gross rental income credit for cash rents, and 15% of gross rental income for share rents.

Certified beginning farmers can receive an income tax credit equal to the cost of participating in a certified financial management program.

Beginning farmers, among other requirements, are those in or seeking entry into farming in Ohio within the past 10 years who are not a partner, member or shareholder with the owner of the agricultural assets and who have a net worth of less than $800,000 in 2021, which adjusts for inflation in subsequent years. Beginning farmers must be certified by the Ohio Department of Agriculture or a land grant institution. 

Wind and solar facilities — S.B. 52. In addition to revising setback and safety specifications for wind turbines, this proposal would amend Ohio township zoning law to establish a referendum process for large wind and solar facility certificates. The bill would require a person applying for a certificate for a large wind or solar facility to notify the township trustees and share details of the proposed facility. 

That notification sets up opportunities for the township trustees or residents of the township to object to the application and submit the proposed application to a vote of township residents. A certificate would not take effect unless approved by a majority of the voters. 

Grants for broadband services  H.B. 2 and S.B. 8. The Senate has passed its version of this bill, which sets up a $20 million competitive grant program for broadband providers to extend broadband services throughout the state. The proposal would also allow broadband providers to use electric cooperative easements and poles, subject to procedures and restrictions. 

Eminent domain — H.B. 63. Based on a similar bill that didn’t pass last session, this bill changes eminent domain law in regard to property taken for the use of recreational trails, which include public trails used for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, ski touring, canoeing and other nonmotorized recreational travel. 

H.B. 63 would allow a landowner to submit a written request asking a municipality or township to veto the use of eminent domain for a recreational trail within its borders. The bill also would allow a landowner to object to a use of eminent domain for any purpose at any time prior to a court order for the taking, rather than limiting that time period to 10 days as in current law.

Minimum wage increases — S.B. 51 and H.B. 69. Bills on each side of the General Assembly propose gradually increasing the state minimum wage to $15, but have different paths for reaching that amount. 

S.B. 51 proposes increasing the wage to $12 per hour in 2022, followed by $1 per hour increases each year and reaching $15 by 2025, which is when a federal bill proposes to establish the $15 minimum wage. H.B. 69 begins at $10 per hour in 2022, with $1 per hour increases annually, reaching $15 in 2027. 

Hall is director of the OSU Ag and Resource Law Program.

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